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Top Dem Gets Religion On PACs

In a change of heart, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has formed a political action committee to raise money for Democratic congressional candidates.

Daschle has advocated banning PACs and used to say it would be hypocritical for him to have one.

It's a fund-raising tool that Republicans have used to far greater advantage than Democrats. And with the two parties relying more heavily than ever on unregulated "soft-money" contributions, Daschle said he has decided that PACs may be one of the "cleanest and most appropriate" ways to finance campaigns.

"This money is fully reported and limited. Soft money is not," Daschle said Friday. "I've come to the belief that this is the best way to do it, which is not a belief I had initially."

Daschle's new operation is called DASH PAC, as in Dedicated Americans for the Senate and House. Dallas investor Cappy McGarr, a longtime Daschle contributor, will be chairman. The committee plans to hold its first fund-raiser in June.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call first reported Daschle's new PAC.

Lawmakers solicit contributions for PACs, then distribute the money to colleagues and candidates. That allows contributors essentially to give twice to the same candidate, once directly, then through a leadership PAC.

Leadership PACs distributed $10.8 million during the 1998 campaign, with 72 percent of the money going to GOP candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign fund raising. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott handed out almost $600,000.

At least 30 senators have them, two-thirds of them Republicans.

Democrats need to net just six seats to reclaim control of the House in 2000. Regaining control of the Senate, which would make Daschle majority leader, is not out of the question. Republicans now have a 55-45 majority.

"We're going to do everything we can to get the majority back and elect more people who think like Tom Daschle," said Michael Meehan, Daschle's political director.

Written By Philip Brasher, Associated Press Writer

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